To start with, a woman advocate named Ms Indu Kaul who is a regularly practising lady advocate duly entered on the roll of bar Council of Delhi under Advocates Act, 1961 has approached the Supreme Court by filing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking CBI enquiry in the murder case of Ms Darvesh Yadav who was the newly elected President of UP Bar Council and who was shot dead within just three days of her election right inside court premises! It merits no reiteration that her brutal murder in court premises itself has thrown up very serious questions regarding the security level and this has been taken very seriously even by the Allahabad High Court itself! Chief Justice Govind Mathur of Allahabad High Court has asked all the District Judges of the State to take necessary steps for security of court campuses across the state. The Registrar General of Allahabad High Court in the communication dated June 21 has asked all the District Judges to ensure that adequate security is provided to all the persons related to ‘dispensation of justice’ in the state.
Earlier a delegation led by acting Chairman of UP Bar Council Prashant Singh Atal had met the Chief Justice with regard to murder of advocate and Chairperson of UP Bar Council – Darvesh Yadav on the Agra court premises. The delegation had demanded security for office-bearers and members of the UP Bar Council and also earnestly requested the Chief Justice to ban entry of persons carrying weapons in court premises across the state. Why ban entry of persons carrying weapons in just UP alone? It should be banned uniformly all across India in all the courts in our country!
It must be mentioned here that in her PIL, advocate Indu Kaul has also sought a direction to the Bar Council of India to formulate a scheme towards the Social Security Measures for lady advocates and also for providing police security to lady advocates in court premises and its amenities beyond court working hours throughout the country. There is a lot of merit in what she has said so eloquently in her petition. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the matter on June 25.
First and foremost, it is pointed out in the petition that, “The instant petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India is in the nature of a Public Interest Litigation highlighting the dastardly murder of first chairperson of U.P. Bar Council and lady advocate Ms Darvesh Yadav practicing at Agra District Court on 12.06.2019 by her male colleague Manish Sharma inside the chamber situated in precinct of Agra district court, State of U.P. Late Darvesh Yadav got elected as Chairperson of the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh on 09.06.2019 and immediately after that she propelled into the world of success being the first lady Chairperson of the state bar council. Prior to this no lady advocate in the country has earned this accolade in any Bar Council in the country. Darvesh was 38 years of age and was single and unmarried. The irony is that the scourge of her dastardly murder was none other than her male colleague Manish Sharma who had been her senior in law college also and thus an old acquaintance. It is claimed by several eyewitnesses to her murder as reported in livelaw.in on 12.06.2019 and the Times of India dated 13.06.2019 and other websites namely Bar and Bench, The First Post etc. that Manish Sharma was heard saying “Tu jeet gayi (You’ve won.)” before he shot her dead thrice minutes after the victory procession was taken out at Agra district court celebrating the victory of Darvesh Yadav’s on her becoming elected as the Chairperson of Uttar Pradesh Bar Council. As reported there had been a fallout between Darvesh and Manish recently and advocate colleagues were surprised to see Manish present at the celebrations. Manish Sharma shot her thrice and then shot himself. Darvesh Yadav succumbed to her injuries on the spot. Manish Sharma was taken to the hospital where he died later. Male insecurity has been a common feature from women placed at a higher position and in many instances this becomes a constant threat for successful women. While reporting this incident it has also been found on social media that this male insecurity might have been the motive for killing Darvesh Yadav as she broke the glass ceiling by intruding and trespassing into the men’s domain.”
Furthermore, it is then mentioned that, “It is germane to mention that Bar Council of India respondent no. 3 has made an appeal for Advocate Protection Bill. As reported in livelaw.in dated 12.06.2019 Chairman, Bar Council of India issued a Press Release demanding that a compensation of Rs. 50 lakhs be given to the family of the deceased besides strict security of members of the Bar across country. It is ironical that the Bar Council of India Respondent No. 3 instead of paying a suitable compensation to the deceased from its own Advocate Welfares’ Fund collected from the enrolment advocates’ across the country through respective state bar councils is issuing a Press release. In addition to this Bar Councils from different states and Bar Council of India collect a huge amount of money on the sale of Advocates’ Welfare Stamp affixed mandatorily on every Vakalatnama irrespective of the fact that the case is criminal, jail petition, of women, old and indigent persons and/or PIL.”
More importantly, it is then pointed out in the next para that, “This petition raises an important issue that there is no social security provided to the advocates either through bar councils or bar associations. Many a times in case of premature death or fatal illness some bar associations for e.g. Supreme Court Bar Association extends a paltry sum of Rs 50000/- to Rs. 1 lakh for illness and Rs 5 lakhs in case of death and it is not out of context to mention here that on the common appeal for financial assistance by advocates, there has been some occasions when senior advocates/advocates who are well off have made generous contributions/donations. Recently as per the newspapers and bar circulars Delhi Government has promised a sum of Rs. 50 lakhs to the Bar Council of Delhi but as per the information of the petitioner there is no uniform policy of disbursement of the ‘Advocate Welfare Funds’ to ill, indisposed of on death of an advocate. Neither the bar councils nor the bar associations have formulated any policy for providing social security to the advocate members. It will not be out of context to mention here that even after ‘one bar one vote’ advocates do take membership of different associations for availing the bar facilities in the court premises but may opt to cast their vote in a bar of their choice, the paradox is when they suffer illness or injury they are left at the mercy of their own funds. The petitioner by this writ petition vindicates the fundamental rights of ill, indisposed, indigent, old and lady advocates (young and married) as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution to lead a life with dignity in such conditions when they are not in active practice. For instance, the petitioner by way of this Public Interest Litigation raises an issue of national importance as to would there have been any source of sustenance of Darvesh Yadav if luckily she would have survived the attack but became physically indisposed for being able to continue in active practice? An advocate like any other citizen of India has to pay for medical treatment by taking life insurance, medi claim insurance, pension, disability allowance, non-practising allowance for looking after themselves, their old parents, children’s education etc. The present petition thus raises the issue of social security of advocates at large and particularly of lady advocates and protection of lady advocates in court premises, chambers, restrooms, car parking, bar offices and libraries after the court hours.”
What’s more, the sequence of events is then described in chronological order stating that, “The List of Dates is as follows:
09.06.2019 Darvesh Yadav was elected as the Chairperson of Bar Council of U.P.
12.06.2019 The last rites of Ms. Darvesh Yadav were performed in her native village Chandpur, Etah district, UP. State Law Minister Brijesh Pathak also attended the last rites of Darvesh Yadav.
12.06.2019 FIR No. 0390 dated 12.06.2019 has been lodged at P.S New Agra Distt. Agra, Uttar Pradesh by one informant Sunny Yadav, nephew of the deceased. It is reported that the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh gave instructions to the Distt. Authorities for investigation through SSP but no announcement has been made to give ex gratia amount to the deceased advocate.
19.06.2019 The petitioner invokes the extra ordinary jurisdiction of this Hon’ble Court by way of Public Interest Litigation under Article 32 of the Constitution of India praying for protection of lady advocates in the court precincts including her chamber and implementation of social security system by bar councils who have enormous funds in the name of Advocates’ Welfare Funds.”
Most importantly, the reasons why relief is sought is very rightly highlighted by the petitioner in para 9 stating, “That the present Writ Petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India raises important issues pertaining to protection of lady advocates in court premises and also for having a uniform social security measure provided to them for sustaining themselves in case they suffer from any physical disability and premature death. The Petitioner thus invokes the extra ordinary civil writ jurisdiction for the issuance of the writ of mandamus on following amongst other:-
I. BECAUSE the safety in court premises, chamber blocks, bar libraries, bar offices, car parking has no security provision like deployment of police personnels at these places.
II. BECAUSE for the safety of lady separate rest rooms for ladies at distanced locations in close proximity of chamber blocks need to be constructed.
III. BECAUSE there are combined chamber blocks for men and lady advocates, lady advocates fall easy prey to misbehaving male advocates including those who do not desist from consuming liquor inside the chambers and under the pretext of liquor loosely conduct themselves at public places like car parking, bar libraries and at times inside the bar offices.
IV. BECAUSE women by and large are still unsafe in this country post amendments in criminal law and as almost every day one finds reporting about incidents of rape, sexual assault, acid attack etc. The common psyche of men in general and male advocates in particular is a lady advocate working late hours and/or wearing modern dresses is an easy going person and often lewd comments are passed against her.
V. BECAUSE Lady advocates are found to be contesting elections in many bar associations and bar councils, the brutal murder of Darvesh Yadav in court chamber is a big deterrent for any lady advocate to dare to contest elections.
VI. BECAUSE such incidents of rape, sexual assault, voyeurism, eve teasing reflects gender disparity even after nearly 100 years of entry of lady advocates who still maintain the rule of ‘sunrise to sunset practice’ as they still do not find it safe to work beyond court hours.
VII. BECAUSE the women representation in the legal profession is abysmally low despite mushrooming law colleges all over the country as lady advocates still prefer corporate practice and law firms instead of litigations mainly due to lack of infrastructural facilities and security.
VIII. BECAUSE the young lady advocates who get into marriage and have to stay away from courts periodically when they are on family way, there is no social security measure introduced towards maternity benefits. In case of illness, indisposition, old age and her becoming indigent her situation is even worse for want of non practising allowance.
IX. BECAUSE there is no retirement age in the profession a lady advocate becomes pitiable in her old age when her practice diminishes due to her health condition and her family still nourishes the impression that being an advocate she must be capable of earning her livelihood. Through social security measures there must be a provision for pension when she opts out of active practice.
X. BECAUSE wide gender difference is found despite increased women participation due to the professional uncertainties. The requirement of legal professional coupled with societal expectations act as inherent barriers for women. One has to invest at least 12 hours every day to survive in the field. Under these circumstances, a lady lawyer has to slog for long hours in their chambers so without adequate security facilities it is not possible.
XI. BECAUSE if a lady advocate breaks the stereotype of being meek and that she can break the glass ceiling all circumstances start working against her such as hostility from male colleagues, insecurity in the court premises, lack of social security measures and family expectations. She has to fight it all alone.
XII. BECAUSE the Bar Council of India instead of paying a suitable compensation to the deceased from its own Advocates Welfares’ Fund collected from the enrolment advocates’ across the country through respective state bar councils is issuing a Press release. In addition to this Bar Councils from different states and Bar Council of India collect a huge amount of money on the sale of Advocates’ Welfare Stamp affixed mandatorily on every Vakalatnama irrespective of the fact that the case is criminal, jail petition, of women, old and indigent persons and/or PIL. Bar Council of India, state bar councils have not formulated any social security measures for the sustenance of the lady advocates in their non-active period in the profession despite having huge savings under ‘Advocates Welfare Funds’ as enrolment fee, verification of licence fee and earnings from welfare stamps.”
All said and done, the petitioner has raised very valid points in her writ petition by which lady advocates can stand to gain immensely if the Supreme Court grants her relief. The petitioner Indu Kaul who herself is a practicing lady advocate has very rightly sought direction to the Bar Council of India to formulate schemes towards the Social Security Measures for lady advocates and most importantly has very rightly sought police security to lady advocates not just in court premises but also beyond court premises in working hours throughout the country. It will be a major breakthrough if the Supreme Court accepts her writ petition and this will not just be her personal victory but it will be the victory of all lady advocates who under present circumstances are working in unfavourable conditions with no security available to them which some times even culminates in their gruesome murder also as we saw just recently in the case of UP Bar Council Chairperson Darvesh Yadav who was murdered right inside court premises shortly after attending the welcome ceremony of being elected as Chairperson! This burning issue directly concerning the security of lady advocates cannot be kept any longer in the cold storage! There can be no denying or disputing it!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.